The main goal of social workers is to help others: help foster children find adoptive families, help students deal with emotional issues at school, help addicts cope with rehabilitation, help people who suffer from terminal or mental illnesses, and much more.
There are two main types of social workers: Direct-service social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives, and clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Because of the broad range of specialties available, social workers can find careers in a number of different environments, such as hospitals and clinics, nursing homes, mental health clinics, private practices, schools, and military bases and hospitals.
Social work majors take a number of courses that explore the core areas of social work practice and research, social policy and program analysis, human behavior in the social environment, and diversity. Electives in areas such as gerontology, developmental disabilities, and child and family services allow students to delve into more specific topics of interest or steer their education toward their future career goals. Towards the end of their program, social work majors are usually required to perform a certain number of field work hours in a social service agency or similar facility to apply their skills and knowledge to real-life situations.
Direct-service social work positions usually require a bachelor's degree; however, clinical social workers must have a master's degree and must also be licensed by the state they plan to work in. Because a lot of social workers require a master's degree, undergraduate degree programs specifically for social work are not always available. Depending on their career goals, students may choose to obtain a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as sociology or psychology, and then pursue a master's degree program in social work. Sometimes, colleges and universities will provide a joint bachelor's and master's degree program or an accelerated program that allows students to complete a master's degree program in less time.